UBS Securities Japan Co. Ltd. (UBS Securities Japan), an investment bank, financial advisory securities firm and wholly-owned subsidiary of UBS AG, was sentenced today for its role in manipulating the London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR), a leading benchmark used in financial products and transactions around the world, the Justice Department announced.
UBS Securities Japan was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Robert N. Chatigny in the District of Connecticut. UBS Securities Japan pleaded guilty on Dec. 19, 2012, to one count of engaging in a scheme to defraud counterparties to interest rate derivative trades by secretly manipulating LIBOR benchmark interest rates. UBS Securities Japan signed a plea agreement with the government in which it admitted its criminal conduct and agreed to pay a $100 million fine, which the court accepted in imposing sentence. In addition, UBS AG, the Zurich-based parent company of UBS Securities Japan, entered into a non-prosecution agreement (NPA) with the government requiring UBS AG to pay an additional $400 million penalty, to admit and accept responsibility for its misconduct as set forth in an extensive statement of facts and to continue cooperating with the Justice Department in its ongoing investigation. The NPA reflects UBS AG’s substantial cooperation in discovering and disclosing LIBOR misconduct within the financial institution and recognizes the significant remedial measures undertaken by new management to enhance internal controls.
Together with approximately $1 billion in regulatory penalties and disgorgement – $700 million as a result of a Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) action; $259.2 million as a result of a U.K. Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) action; and $64.3 million as a result of a Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority (FINMA) action – the Justice Department’s criminal penalties bring the total amount of the resolution to more than $1.5 billion.
“This action, and the resulting sentence, prove that no individual or firm is above the law – no matter what,” said Attorney General Eric Holder. “The Department of Justice will continue to stand vigilant against corporations or individuals who threaten the integrity of our financial markets, undermine the stability of our economy, or jeopardize the well-being of our citizens. And, when supported by the facts and the law, we will never hesitate to use every tool and authority available to us to hold accountable those who illegally take advantage of others for their own financial gain.”
“Through its guilty plea and sentence, UBS has been held to account for deliberately manipulating LIBOR, one of the cornerstone interest rates in our global financial system,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Mythili Raman of the Criminal Division. “The $1.5 billion global resolution against UBS – of which this guilty plea and sentence are a critical element – is just one of several actions we have taken against financial firms throughout the world that sought to illegally influence LIBOR. As we continue our active and ongoing investigation of the manipulation of LIBOR, our prosecutors and agents will continue to tenaciously follow the evidence wherever it leads. Neither UBS, nor the individual UBS defendants we have charged in connection with this sophisticated scheme, nor any other bank or individual, is above the law.”
According to documents filed in these cases, LIBOR is an average interest rate, calculated based on submissions from leading banks around the world, reflecting the rates those banks believe they would be charged if borrowing from other banks. LIBOR serves as the primary benchmark for short-term interest rates globally, and is used as a reference rate for many interest rate contracts, mortgages, credit cards, student loans and other consumer lending products. The Bank of International Settlements estimated that as of the second half of 2009, outstanding interest rate contracts were estimated at approximately $450 trillion.
LIBOR, published by the British Bankers’ Association (BBA), a trade association based in London, is calculated for 10 currencies at 15 borrowing periods, known as maturities, ranging from overnight to one year. The LIBOR for a given currency at a specific maturity is the result of a calculation based upon submissions from a panel of banks.
Beginning in September 2006, UBS Securities Japan and a senior trader employed in the Tokyo office of UBS Securities Japan orchestrated a sustained, wide-ranging and systematic scheme to move Yen LIBOR in a direction favorable to the trader’s trading positions, defrauding UBS’s counterparties and harming others with financial products referencing Yen LIBOR who were unaware of the manipulation. Between November 2006 and August 2009, the senior trader or a colleague of the senior trader endeavored to manipulate Yen LIBOR on at least 335 of the 738 trading days in that period, and during some periods on almost a daily basis. Because of the large size of the senior trader’s positions, even slight moves of a fraction of a percent in Yen LIBOR could generate large profits. For example, the senior trader once estimated that a 0.01 percent movement in the final Yen LIBOR fixing on a specific date could result in a $2 million profit for UBS.
According to the charging documents, UBS Securities Japan and the senior trader employed three strategies to execute the scheme: causing UBS to make false and misleading Yen LIBOR submissions to the BBA; causing cash brokerage firms, which purported to provide market information regarding LIBOR to panel banks, to disseminate false and misleading information about short-term interest rates for Yen, which those banks could and did rely upon in formulating their own LIBOR submissions to the BBA; and communicating with interest rate derivatives traders employed at three other Yen LIBOR panel banks in an effort to cause them to make false and misleading Yen LIBOR submissions to the BBA.
In entering into the NPA with UBS AG, the Justice Department considered information from UBS and from regulatory agencies in Switzerland and Japan demonstrating that in the last two years UBS has made important and positive changes in its management, compliance and training to ensure adherence to the law. The Department received favorable reports from the FINMA and the Japan Financial Services Authority (JFSA) describing, respectively, progress that UBS has made in its approach to compliance and enforcement and UBS Securities Japan’s effective implementation of the remedial measures the JFSA imposed based on findings relating to the attempted manipulation of Yen benchmarks.
The investigation was conducted by the FBI’s Washington Field Office. The prosecution is being handled by Deputy Chiefs Daniel Braun and William Stellmach and Trial Attorneys Thomas B.W. Hall and Sandra L. Moser, along with former Trial Attorney Luke Marsh, of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Eric Glover and Liam Brennan of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Connecticut have provided valuable assistance. The Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs also provided assistance in this matter.
The investigation leading to these cases has required, and has greatly benefited from, a diligent and wide-ranging cooperative effort among various enforcement agencies both in the United States and abroad. The Justice Department acknowledges and expresses its deep appreciation for this assistance. In particular, the CFTC’s Division of Enforcement referred this matter to the Department and, along with the FCA, has played a major role in the investigation. The SEC has also played a significant role in the LIBOR series of investigations and, among other efforts, has made an invaluable contribution to the investigation relating to UBS. The Department of Justice also wishes to acknowledge and thank FINMA, the Japanese Ministry of Justice, and the JFSA. Various agencies and enforcement authorities from other nations also have participated in different aspects of the broader investigation relating to LIBOR and other benchmark rates, and the Department is grateful for their cooperation and assistance.
This prosecution is part of efforts underway by President Barack Obama’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force (FFETF). President Obama established the interagency FFETF to wage an aggressive, coordinated and proactive effort to investigate and prosecute financial crimes. The task force includes representatives from a broad range of federal agencies, regulatory authorities, inspectors general and state and local law enforcement who, working together, bring to bear a powerful array of criminal and civil enforcement resources. The task force is working to improve efforts across the federal executive branch, and with state and local partners, to investigate and prosecute significant financial crimes, ensure just and effective punishment for those who perpetrate financial crimes, combat discrimination in the lending and financial markets and recover proceeds for victims of financial crimes. For more information about the task force visit: www.stopfraud.gov.